Loaded dice: Archaeologists find evidence of a medieval con artist

In Norway, a 600-year-old wood die bearing unusual markings may have belonged to a gambling grifter.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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This isn't your normal gambling die. 

Angela Weigand, UIB

Norwegian archaeologists have discovered more than 30 dice dating to the Middle Ages. But only one of these finds suggests medieval intrigue and deceit. 

The wood six-sided die, found in the city of Bergen, looks normal at first glance, but then you connect the dots. It has two fives and two fours. It doesn't have a one or two, insuring a roll of at least three or better. 

(Livescience brought our attention to the unusual find.) 

The Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research says the die was likely used to cheat in games, though it's possible it was specially designed for an unknown game. The die was discovered near a wooden street dating back to the 1400s. The area was known for its inns and pubs, which likely would have hosted games.

While the origin and owner of the die remains unknown, archaeologist Ingrid Rekkavik speculates it may have been thrown away in an attempt to get rid of evidence, or it may have been discovered and tossed aside by the opponent of an unscrupulous gambler. 

Despite its ancient origins, the die shows just how little the gaming cubes have changed over the centuries. It also suggests that some gamblers have always tried to find an edge, whether fair or not.

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